By NICOLE JACQUES
Sunday’s hot and humid temperatures weren’t enough to keep community members from supporting a good cause.
Hundreds of runners, walkers, spectators, and community members turned out at the General Electric facility on Woodford Avenue Sunday to participate in the 6th Annual GE 5K Road Race to benefit the Petit Family Foundation.
Crowds donned their sneakers and shorts to participate in a 5K race that began along Route 10 and spanned across several streets throughout the town. Multiple others supported the cause through participating in a 1.3 mile Fitness Walk and a quarter-mile Kids Fun Run.
With an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 runners and walkers this year, race co-director Gary Heslin said the race draws participants from all over the county, state, and region.
“It brings the community together,” Heslin said. “You see people here you haven’t seen in…20, 30 years. I have friends that come from Texas, Virginia, [and] West Virginia [that] I haven’t seen in years—they come over to run, just to bring everybody together.”
Year after year, participants are also drawn in by the cause.
In partnership with the Petit Family Foundation, race officials say the race and activities provide participants and spectators with an opportunity to reflect, remember, and move forward.
In wake of the tragic July 2007 home-invasion deaths of Cheshire residents Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley Petit, and Michaela Petit, the Foundation established the race to remember the victims as well as to continue to make strides in their honor.
Dr. William Petit said the race has made incredible strides since its inception.
Since the first race in 2008, Petit estimates that approximately $900,000 has been raised to support Foundation causes. The funds have gone directly towards fostering the education of young people (especially women in sciences), improving the lives of those affected by chronic illness, and aiding those affected by violence.
Petit said the race has done more than just fundraise, however. He says it provides an important healing opportunity for the community in face of such tragic loss.
“The more people do for others, the better they feel,” Petit said.
Petit said this fact has also held true on a personal level.
“For [race organizers] and I, it’s a selfish undertaking,” Petit said. In raising funds to help others through the Petit Family Foundation, Petit says he gains a sense of satisfaction that is therapeutic in itself.
Petit is not alone. For members of the local community, supporting each other through the healing process continues to be important.
Aaron Lee, a Plainville resident, saw officials closing the streets around his home in preparation for the race early Sunday morning and decided right then that he wanted to run the 5K.
Lee says his sudden decision was rooted in his respect for the cause.
“It’s for a good cause and everything and I think it’s really important to [show] concern for the community, so that’s why I’m here,” Lee said.
Karen Crossman, a Bristol resident, also cited the power of the community as a factor in her decision to take part in the Fitness Walk.
“I just think what happened was tragedy and getting this many people together to support the family and the Foundation is really inspiring,” Crossman said.
Dr. Petit says participants like Lee and Crossman play an important role in what has always been the motto and of the event: “Be the change” (a phrase which originated as an ideal held by Dr. Petit’s daughter Michaela).
“Be the change really means that everybody is able to do their own little part,” Petit said. “Whether they spend two dollars on a raffle ticket, or donate water, or run in the race, or walk in the race—everybody’s able to [contribute] in some small part to help others.”
And when it comes down to it, Helsin says that’s what helps make the race so successful year after year.
“Without the community and the people, it wouldn’t be,” Heslin said.
For more information on the Petit Family Foundation and for a complete list of this year’s race results, visit www.PetitRoadRace.com.